The Covid-19 virus infected people in five U.S. states in December 2019 and early 2020 before those states reported their first cases, according to a large new government study, providing new insights into the first, unseen weeks of the nation’s deadly epidemic.

Scientists analyzing blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program identified seven people in states from Mississippi to Wisconsin to Pennsylvania who were infected with the new virus days or weeks before the first cases were confirmed in their areas. At least a couple had mild symptoms.

Their findings were published online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases Tuesday.

US DELIVERS 1.35M JOHNSON & JOHNSON COVID-19 VACCINES TO MEXICO

Two samples, one taken from a person from Illinois and another from a person from Massachusetts, date to Jan. 7 and 8, 2020, respectively, the researchers said. Antibodies found in the samples appear about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

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